Says State of Economic Emergency Means Families Need Help Today
HARRISBURG, Pa., March 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the grip of a national recession continues to tighten around families across Pennsylvania, Governor Edward G. Rendell today announced unprecedented emergency executive actions intended to provide immediate relief to citizens in need and spark economic recovery.
The Governor's proposed 2009-10 budget, which is awaiting action now by the General Assembly, includes a significant economic relief and recovery agenda that would provide tuition relief, health care assistance and job creation. However, the Governor said immediate action is needed because some families cannot wait any longer for help.
"Last month more of our citizens lost their jobs, more of our citizens lost their health care, more of our families made hard decisions about which necessities to cut out of their family budgets," Governor Rendell said. "Even though billions of federal stimulus dollars will flow into the state in the coming months, many families need help now. So, today I am taking executive actions that will provide some measure of relief, recovery and hope in the coming days and weeks to those families most in need."
The following executive actions will take effect immediately and be paid for with existing revenues which are being re-prioritized and redirected to meet emergency economic needs:
Governor Rendell announced that he is cutting the adultBasic waiting list by as many as 16,000 people. The current waiting list includes more than 200,000 individuals -- an increase of 25,000 from just last month. In his budget proposal, the Governor asked the legislature to add as many as 50,000 Pennsylvanians to the adultBasic program, which provides affordable health care to working families whose low-income jobs do not offer health care benefits. He also asked for the plan to be expanded to include generic prescription drug and behavioral health coverage.
"If the families most in need on this health care waiting list lose their jobs, they will lose their homes, their cars and most likely will apply for public benefits. It's critical to keep them working -- but if they can't get health care through their employers, we simply can not tell them and their children -- 'too bad, you're out of luck.' As Pennsylvanians we can do better than that," Governor Rendell said.
Governor Rendell is directing $5 million to mortgage assistance to ensure that recently unemployed workers can keep their homes while they are retraining and finding new jobs.
"Many people, through no fault of their own, now find themselves out of work and are at risk of losing their family's home. The stress these families feel to keep up with mortgage payments is enormous. I hope this gesture will help thousands fend off foreclosure next month."
HOME HEATING ASSISTANCE
Governor Rendell is committing $6.6 million to extend home heating assistance for one additional week this winter, to benefit approximately 19,000 families.
"Job loss in the winter means some families will have to go without heat. When families make tough decisions about what to cut out in the family budget, energy payments sometimes are the first thing to go. But this can have very dangerous consequences, especially for families with young children. I hope this additional assistance will provide relief to such families."
UNEMPLOYMENT COUNSELING SERVICES
Governor Rendell is ordering state-run Pennsylvania CareerLink centers to expand operations in the coming months. PA CareerLink centers help workers find jobs and employers find workers. They provide job training and resume writing assistance, and a host of other important job counseling services. For more information about PA CareerLink centers, visit www.pacareerlink.state.pa.us.
"We will do all we can to put jobless Pennsylvanians in touch with potential employers, and ready them for new jobs," the Governor said. "When a parent living paycheck to paycheck loses his or her job, they have no time to waste finding new work. Our PA CareerLink centers offer critical job counseling and training services, and now will work even harder putting people to work."
Pennsylvanians now are able to access and use a new Web site to find the best price for prescription drugs in their area. By entering a ZIP code and the name of the prescribed medicine, this new online tool -- www.parxpricefinder.com -- will give consumers a list of local pharmacies with price comparisons.
"This is a Web site that some pharmacies probably wish didn't exist," Governor Rendell said. "For the first time there is one place for consumers to quickly find the best price on a prescription drug in their area. We have found local drug prices can vary by as much as $200 or more for the same exact product -- even within the same chain of pharmacies.
"For example, the price for the generic version of indigestion medicine Prilosec at local pharmacies in Punxsutawney recently ranged from $21.19 to $215.93 for a typical dosage. That is enough to give the people of Punxsutawney indigestion.
"I hope this Web site provides families without access to pharmacy benefits some economic relief on drugs they often have no choice but to purchase for themselves or their children."
Governor Rendell is scheduled to make a major policy address on his full Economic Relief and Recovery Agenda on Wednesday, March 11, in the auditorium of Brashear High School in Pittsburgh. The address will be viewed via the Internet at all Pennsylvania high schools. In seven different regions of the state, Rendell administration cabinet officials will be present to host local residents watching the speech and to answer their questions.
More information on existing government resources available to help residents make ends meet during tough economic times is available at: www.HereToHelp.pa.gov.
The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit: www.governor.state.pa.us.
CONTACT: Chuck Ardo 717-783-1116
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor